The first stop on our 128 mile round trip to Wilson was to Whirligig Park. Two blocks from Nash Street (Wilson’s main drag) stand dozens of spinning sculptures, their position subject to the whims of the wind.
Artist Vollis Simpson was born in 1919 and was one of twelve children in a farming family. After serving in World War II with the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific, he returned home and opened a machinery repair shop with friends. Later, he would add a side business of house moving – not helping people move their things to a new house – but moving of the actual house.
All of his exposure to farm, machine, and mechanical equipment is manifest the inventive metal sculptures he came to create late in life. The “whirligigs” as Simpson’s creations came to be known are made with all sorts of parts including bicycles, steel rods, milkshake mixers, and road signs. Fans of upcycled art will particularly enjoy Whirligig Park.
In 2013, Whirligigs were declared the Official State Folk Art of North Carolina. Simpson died just one month before the declaration, but his legacy lives on in a park in downtown Wilson.
The park is open from 5:30am – midnight every day. It’s free and accessible. Street and lot parking is available for several blocks surrounding the park. You can also check in on the park anytime by watching this live feed:
Whirligig Park Official Site